Read you like a book: Employee attributes of HR practices

Topic: Job Attitudes, Organizational Performance, Strategic HR
Publication: Personnel Psychology
Article: Employee attributions of the “why” of HR practices: Their effects on employee attitudes and behaviors, and customer satisfaction.
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

A recent article by Nishii and colleagues explores how employees’ beliefs about “why” management employs certain HR practices (training, payment, selection, etc.) affect organizational performance.  Although the hypothesized model and subsequent methodology are somewhat complicated, the major research findings are fairly intuitive:

Employees make one of two attributions about why a company performs its HR practices the way it does:

1. Quality and employee enhancement attribution: Management is trying to improve the quality of service they deliver and enhance employee well-being.

2. Cost and employee exploitation attribution:  Management is trying to cut costs and squeeze as much as they can out of employees.

Individual’s “quality and employee enhancement attributions” are positively related to their levels of organizational commitment and satisfaction, while individual’s “cost and employee exploitation attributions” are negatively related to their levels of commitment/satisfaction.

Group-level employee attitudes (defined as a shared sense of employee commitment/satisfaction within a single organizational department) are positively related to organizational citizenship behaviors. Organizational citizenship behaviors are positively related to customer ratings of performance.

While there are a number of possible implications, the Nishii et al. findings most directly suggest that organizations must be careful to communicate and demonstrate how their HR practices benefit the company and the individual as early and often as possible.

So, although you can’t change the fact that employees (or mothers) make strong attributions about company practices (or body piercings), providing them with the necessary information to develop an informed explanation may help stem the tide.

Nishii, L. H., Lepak, D. P., & Schneider, B. (2008). Employee  attributions of the “why” ofHR practices: Their effects on employee attitudes and behaviors, and customer satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 61, 503-545.